Fentanyl has become a popular player in the third wave of the opioid crisis. People have begun to misuse the substance along with other opioids like heroin.
But, fentanyl didn’t always have this reputation. It was actually created to be a prescription medication. This article is going to be an in-depth look at fentanyl. We’ll cover what it is and how it’s used. We’ll also cover the signs and symptoms of fentanyl abuse.
This drug wasn’t intended to be dangerous but it certainly can be. The more we know about its nature and how to spot it, the safer we can keep our families.
What Is Fentanyl Used For?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. It doesn’t occur naturally and was created for pain management. Medical professionals prescribe this drug to help patients manage pain after surgery. But, fentanyl can be highly addictive much like other opioids.
Fentanyl is a Schedule II substance. This means it has some purpose for medical use. This makes it different from heroin which is a Schedule I substance. If a substance is classified as Schedule I that means it has no medical use whatsoever.
Medical professionals can prescribe fentanyl to patients. But, there’s also a market for fentanyl that’s made illegally. This is dangerous because fentanyl that’s made “on the street” can’t be monitored. As a result, people don’t know what they’re putting into their bodies.
One of the reasons fentanyl is so dangerous is that it’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. While this helps with severe pain, it can also increase the danger if it’s misused. Prescription fentanyl is usually found under other names. Patients can be prescribed Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze. Medical professionals prescribe these drugs if a patient is physically tolerant to other opioids.
Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, are now the leading cause of opioid-related overdose deaths. In 2010, only 14.3% of opioid-related deaths were caused by fentanyl. In 2017, however, that number shot up to 59%.
How Do People Use the Drug?
Fentanyl can be used in a number of ways. If it’s prescribed by a doctor, it’s usually injected. Some patients are also given transdermal patches. These patches allow fentanyl to slowly diffuse into the bloodstream through the skin over time. Doctors can also prescribe fentanyl lozenges. These are taken orally just like a cough drop.
In recent years, we’ve become most familiar with the illegal use of fentanyl. This type of fentanyl is made in labs. This type of fentanyl is sold as a powder or dropped onto blotter paper. It can also be found in liquid form. Creators of this type of fentanyl will put it in an eyedropper or nasal spray form. The powder can also be pressed into pills. In this form, the illegal fentanyl can look just like prescription opioids.
The Dangers of “Street” Fentanyl
When fentanyl is made in a lab it can’t be monitored. People who create the substance on their own are mixing it with other substances. On its own, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. If it’s mixed with other substances, the potency and danger could increase.
Drug dealers are mixing their “homemade” fentanyl with other harmful drugs. Methamphetamine, MDMA, and heroin are just a few of the substances used. There have been instances of fentanyl being mixed with cocaine, as well.
Because fentanyl is so potent, it takes very little to get users high. Drug dealers started to mix it with other substances to “stretch” their product. They can sell to more users for less money when it’s combined with other substances. This ends up making using illegal drugs even more dangerous.
A cocaine user may think they’re buying traditional cocaine. But, if that drug dealer decided to add fentanyl, it could make using that cocaine even more dangerous. It can expose someone to opioids that are much stronger than their body can handle. If that happens, there is a good chance that the person will overdose.
Fentanyl & the Brain
Like heroin and other opioids, fentanyl works by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors. These receptors can be found in many areas of the brain. But, they’re found mostly in the areas associated with pain and emotion. Over time, using opioids can decrease the sensitivity of these receptors. At that point, a user can’t feel pleasure from anything but using the drug.
It’s at this point that a person develops a dependence on the drug. From there, it doesn’t take long for dependence to develop into addiction. Once a person is addicted to opioids, searching for and taking the drug start to consume their life. They will look for opportunities to “score” and take the drug by any means necessary.
This often results in behavioral changes that hurt the people around them. Opioid users will begin to alienate family friends. They’ll start to become very secretive about what they’re doing and where they’re going. They may also be very vague about who they’re spending their time with. These are all behavioral signs to watch for if you suspect someone you know has an opioid addiction.
In addition to behavioral changes, opioid use can also result in other physical symptoms. Feelings of euphoria are a common side effect of opioid use. Someone on opioids may also experience drowsiness or confusion.
Overall, opioid use can result in a euphoric and sedative effect. These substances work to “depress” the symptoms of the body. When too much is taken it can result in feelings of intense sedation. This sedation can also cross over into breathing issues. At this point, the condition is bordering on overdose.
Get Help Today
Opioids may have their place in healthcare but only if they’re used properly. The addictive nature of these drugs has lead to widespread misuse. This is especially true when users seek out opioids on the street.
If you or someone you know are struggling with an opioid addiction, contact Just Believe today. Let’s work together to get you the help you need. Opioid addiction is strong. It’s almost impossible to overcome alone. Reach out to our team and let’s help you get your life back on track.